Family, friends say last farewell to slain Yale grad student Annie Le at Calif. funeral

In a somber funeral service attended by more than 600 people, Annie Le's relatives broke down as they remembered the Yale graduate student as a bubbly young woman whose dream in life was to heal the sick.

Tears flowed inside the Holy Trinity Catholic Church in El Dorado Hills, Calif., as Le's brother Christopher translated a heart-tugging poem read in Vietnamese by her mother, Vivian Van Le.

"Farewell, my child," the brother continued, choking back tears. "You are here lying in the cold coffin, leaving behind the wailing of loved ones. I sing you lullabies by your side so sweet like I did when you were a baby, wishing you a peaceful sleep."

The mom's poem continued: "They're now sung through my crying sobs to wish you an eternal, blessed sleep. ...You left life at too young of an age - all your dreams and hopes gone with you to your resting place."

Among the sea of mourners for the slain woman was Le's fiance Jonathan Widawsky, symbolically wearing a wedding ring.

In the roughly 90-minute service, Le, 24, was honored with prayers in English and a rousing rendition of "Amazing Grace" sung in Vietnamese.

Though she lived a life full of accomplishments - high school valedictorian, top Yale graduate student - relatives said it was Lee's boundless spirit that made her so special.

Her brother, Dan Nguyen, described his delight doing the simplest of things with his sister: watching cartoons and playing with stuffed animals.

"It was the silly girl she always was that made us all love her," Nguyen said. "It was through these little things, not her academic achievements, that made the most impression on us. Only now do I realize how important Annie was to me."

Le's murder and the weeklong hunt for her killer riveted the nation.

The pharmacology student vanished on Sept. 8 after she was spotted at her Yale research lab. Five days later, on what was supposed to be Le's wedding day, her body was found stuffed behind a basement wall in the lab building. She had been strangled.

Lab tech Raymond Clark 3rd, 24, was charged with killing Le in what authorities described as a case of "workplace violence."

As dozens of black-clad mourners poured into the church Saturday, Msgr. James Kidder described the service as a chance for Le's family to "come to reconciliation with what humanly is irreconcilable - not only the fact that Annie died but the way she died.

"There is a rare person that you will meet, not often, a person who is naturally good, whose tendencies are for the good," Kidder added. "She's one of those rare ones."

In his sermon, Kidder noted that Le, despite her brief life, touched countless lives.

"The worth of Annie's life was not its length," Kidder said. "It was the intensity of love, the intensity of passion, the intensity of care."

After the service, her wooden casket was taken to the nearby Green Valley Mortuary for a private burial service.

Before Le's brutal slaying, she was researching enzymes as part of her work that had implications for treating cancer, diabetes, and muscular dystrophy.

In her 2003 high school yearbook, Le wrote that her dream in life was to become a laboratory pathologist.

"I've got to go to school for about 12 years first, get my MD and be certified as a surgeon," Le wrote. "I just hope that all that hard work is going to pay off, and I'm really going to enjoy my job."


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